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The Orioles need to sign Chris Tillman to an extension

The Orioles need to sign Chris Tillman to an extension

Two of the most irritating catchphrases around Baltimore sports are “Joe Flacco isn’t an elite quarterback” and “Chris Tillman isn’t an ace.” 

I’m not here to opine on Flacco and the Ravens’ difficulties, but I am here to defend Tillman. 

Over the last five seasons, Tillman is 65-33, a winning percentage of .663. 

How good is that? Jim Palmer’s lifetime winning percentage was .638, and in his 10 years with the Orioles, Mike Mussina’s was .645.

Tillman, who had an erratic first three seasons with the Orioles, still has a lifetime .600 percentage, in his time here. That trails only Mussina, Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally among pitchers with at least as many wins as Tillman. 

He’s climbing up on the Orioles’ all-time lists. With 72 wins, Tillman is 13th in franchise history, just one behind the immortal Sidney Ponson. With a decent season, Tillman will pass Ponson, Scott Erickson and Mike Boddicker, who each have 79 wins as an Oriole. 

To be sure, Tillman’s ERA is much higher than many of those ahead of him, but at 4.13, it’s still far better than Ponson, Erickson and Dennis Martinez. 

It’s not far off two other Orioles greats, Scott McGregor (3.99) and Mike Flanagan (3.89). 

Tillman isn’t an Oriole great, but he’s at least an Oriole very good. 

As for the ace talk, Tillman won 16 games, tying him with Justin Verlander and Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma for sixth place. Only Rick Porcello (22), J.A. Happ (21), Corey Kluber (18), David Price and Chris Sale (17) had more. 

All those pitchers ahead of Tillman on the win list had lower ERAs except for Price, as did Verlander, Aaron Sanchez, who led the American League in ERA (3.00) and Masahiro Tanaka. 
No one will argue that Tillman is in the class of Verlander, Kluber or for this year, Porcello, but had he not been shut down for three weeks late in the season, he could have gotten some votes for the Cy Young Award. 

Tillman completed at least six innings in 17 of his 30 starts, and in his third straight Opening Day start, left after two perfect innings only because of a lengthy rain delay. 

By the Orioles’ 68th game, Tillman had won his 10th game and was a sparkling 10-1 with a 3.11 ERA and seemingly on his way for Cy Young and All-Star Game consideration. 

But instead of becoming the Orioles’ first 20-game winner since Boddicker in 1984, Tillman had two bad starts where he allowed 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings, and was passed over for the All-Star Game. 

Tillman was a late add for the 2013 game, but didn’t pitch. 

Following those starts, Tillman pitched four brilliant games, throwing seven innings each time and allowing a total of four runs and just 14 hits. 

While that 14-2 record looked great on July 21, it was obvious his shoulder was bothering him and won just two of his final nine starts. 

Overall, a 16-6 record and 3.77 ERA wasn’t bad and earned him the start in the wild-card game. 

Tillman’s WAR of 4.1 was the second highest of his career, behind only the 4.4 of 2013, the other time he won 16 games. 

Always available at his locker after a game, win or lose, Tillman is admired for never making excuses for his own performance or blaming the offensive shortcomings of his teammates. 

A year from now, Tillman will be a free agent, and another year like this one, and he’ll be a highly sought after one, probably out of the Orioles’ price range.

At the Oct. 6 season-ending press conference, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette remarked that he had made two runs at signing Tillman to an extension and that he would try again this offseason. 

It will be difficult because the Orioles haven’t signed one of their own pitchers to a five-year contract since Erickson’s five-year $32 extension in 1998.

Tillman is the best Orioles starter since Mussina, who the Orioles famously lost to the New York Yankees. (Mussina signed a six-year, $88.5 million deal in 2000). 

It would be in the Orioles’ best interest if they locked Tillman up for the long term because it’s likely a year from now his price will be much higher than it is now. 

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles release spring training schedule

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Matt Barnes tossed for nearly beaning Manny Machado as Red Sox beat Orioles

Matt Barnes tossed for nearly beaning Manny Machado as Red Sox beat Orioles

BALTIMORE (AP) -- A spikes-high slide. A near beanball. Harsh talk in the clubhouse.

The rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles soared to a new level over the weekend, and there's no telling what might happen when they soon meet again.

A tempestuous three-game series between these AL East foes wound up with Orioles star Manny Machado seeing a fastball sail behind his head and Matt Barnes getting ejected for throwing it Sunday in Boston's 6-2 victory.

The high, very inside pitch came two days after Machado spiked Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia with an aggressive slide.

Pedroia watched from the dugout for a second straight day with knee and ankle injuries. Machado apologized with a text message on Friday night, but that evidently wasn't the end of it.

"That's on them," Machado said. "Whatever happened today, I'm going to keep (being) me."

When Machado batted in the sixth inning, Eduardo Rodriguez threw three pitches down and in near the knees. Machado came up again in the eighth and Barnes' fastball whizzed behind Machado and hit his bat. The ball hit Machado and rolled foul, and plate umpire Andy Fletcher tossed Barnes.

"I would never intentionally throw at someone's head. That's kind of a line you don't cross," Barnes said.

Boston manager John Farrell -- who on Saturday called the league office to discuss about what he called "an illegal slide" by Machado -- insisted Barnes' wayward pitch was nothing more than an accident.

"He was trying to take a four-seamer in and above his hands and the pitch got away from him," Farrell said.

But Orioles first baseman Chris Davis thought the fastball was intentionally directed at Machado's head.

"I think it was completely obvious," Davis said. "I haven't seen a guy miss that bad in a while -- behind a guy's head."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter appeared reluctant to criticize the Red Sox, but said, "The courage it takes not to retaliate a lot of times in life is a lot more challenging than doing what ended up happening today."

During Farrell's argument with Fletcher, Pedroia was standing on the top step in the dugout and whistled to catch Machado's attention. He mouthed the words "It's not me," evidently trying to show he was not seeking revenge. Machado acknowledged Pedroia and later pointed to his head.

"I had nothing to do with that. That's not how you do that, man," Pedroia said afterward. "I'm sorry to him and his team. If you're going to protect guys, you do it right away."

After the game resumed, Machado hit Joe Kelly's first pitch for an RBI double to make it 6-1.

Machado ended up making the last out, hitting a popup on a pitch from Craig Kimbrel, who got his seventh save.

The Red Sox and Orioles play again May 1 at Fenway Park. Asked whether the teams will put this behind them by then, Davis said, "Honestly, if you ask anybody in here, we're already past it. We didn't agree with what happened, we didn't appreciate it but we can't let those things dwell."

Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez homered on successive pitches in a four-run first inning, and Andrew Benintendi had a career-high five hits to help Boston avert a three-game sweep.

Mitch Moreland also homered for the Red Sox, who came in with a major-league low eight home runs. All the long balls were off Kevin Gausman (1-2), who found himself in a 4-0 hole after throwing only seven pitches.

Rodriguez (1-1) allowed one hit over six innings, walking five and striking out seven. Obtained in the 2014 trade that sent Andrew Miller to the Orioles, Rodriguez is 3-1 with a 1.37 ERA in six career starts at Camden Yards.

Not only did the Red Sox play a second straight game without Pedroia, but third baseman Pablo Sandoval left with a sprained right knee.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Farrell says because there's still some swelling in Pedroia's knee and ankle areas, he will "go through some imaging" Monday in Boston. "At this point, it warrants a further look," Farrell said. ... LHP David Price (elbow) participated in a long-toss session Sunday and will pitch a few simulated innings at Fenway Park on Monday.

Orioles: Closer Zach Britton (forearm strain) will start throwing Monday after having his hand examined.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: After an off day Monday, Boston opens a season-high, 10-game homestand Tuesday night in a matchup with the Yankees.

Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1, 5.51 ERA) goes up the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series. The Rays are 1-6 on the road.

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles prospects 4/22: Chris Tillman’s rehab continues

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Homers by Mancini and Schoop carry Orioles past Red Sox 4-2

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Homers by Mancini and Schoop carry Orioles past Red Sox 4-2

BALTIMORE -- Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop homered in succession off knuckleballer Steven Wright, Jayson Aquino won his first big league start and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 4-2 Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.

Baltimore will seek to complete a three-game sweep on Sunday. The Orioles have not lost a series this year and own the best record in the majors (12-4).

Aquino (1-0) allowed two runs and six hits over six innings to earn his first career victory. The 24-year-old lefty previously pitched three times in relief, all last year with Baltimore.

Mychal Givens followed with two perfect innings, Donnie Hart got two outs in the ninth and Darren O'Day finished for his first save.

Jackie Bradley Jr. homered for the Red Sox, who were without injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Wright (1-2) gave up four runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Just 10 days earlier, the right-hander got only four outs and yielded eight runs against Baltimore at Fenway Park.

Bradley put the Red Sox up 2-0 in the third with his first home run, a shot onto Eutaw Street beyond the right-field scoreboard. Boston came in with only seven home runs, fewest in the big leagues.

Limited to three singles over the first three innings, Baltimore hit two singles, two doubles and two homers in a four-run fourth.

Chris Davis doubled and Mancini and Schoop homered before Adam Jones chased Wright with an RBI single.

It was Mancini's team-high fifth long ball of the year. He has eight homers in 17 big league games over two seasons.

More Orioles: WAS MANNY MACHADO'S SLIDE INTO DUSTIN PEDROIA DIRTY?​